- Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt insisted on luxury hotels and regular trips home to Oklahoma on the taxpayer’s dime, his former deputy chief of staff told congressional investigators.
- Kevin Chmielewski, who was fired after voicing his objections, says Pruitt told staffers to “find me something to do” in order to schedule travel to his desired destinations.
- This comes amid a series of reports that Pruitt has potentially misused agency funds through excessive security and first-class travel and engaged in other ethically questionable behaviour.
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency insisted on staying at luxury hotels that exceeded the government’s cost parameters, flying with airlines not approved by the agency in order to earn personal frequent flier miles, and sometimes fabricated reasons for taxpayer-funded travel, according to one of his former senior deputies.
Kevin Chmielewski, Trump’s “body man” on the 2016 campaign trail who formerly served as Pruitt’s deputy chief of staff at the EPA, met with congressional investigators this week, and his allegations are detailed in a six-page letter signed by five Democratic lawmakers.
Chmielewski, who was reportedly fired from his post after objecting to some of his boss’s requests, said that Pruitt made frequent trips back to Oklahoma, where he owns a home and would spend weekends, using taxpayer funds.
“Find me something to do,” Pruitt would reportedly tell his staffers when he wanted to travel to particular destinations.
On a trip to Italy, Pruitt “refused to stay at hotels recommended by the U.S. Embassy, although the recommended hotel had law enforcement and other U.S. resources on site,” Chmielewski alleged, according to the letter. The EPA administrator opted for more expensive lodging that did not have as much security, while using taxpayer dollars to bring his personal security team on the trip.
The letter, addressed to Pruitt and signed by Sens. Thomas Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. Elijah Cummings, Gerald Connolly, and Donald Beyer Jr., requests a lengthy list of documents concerning Pruitt’s activities.
Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, told Chmielewski that he would be fired or reassigned after he refused to approve first-class travel for one of Pruitt’s aides on a trip to Morocco.
“The new information provided by Mr. Chmielewski, if accurate, leaves us certain that your leadership at E.P.A. has been fraught with numerous and repeated unethical and potentially illegal actions on a wide range of consequential matters,” the lawmakers wrote.
ProPublica reported on Thursday that Chmielewski, whom the letter says “continues to express deep loyalty to the President and Vice President,” failed to file mandatory financial disclosure forms during his year in the administration, which is unusual and can result in a criminal charge. Chmielewski settled a $US7,667 state tax lien from 2015 in February 2017.
Chmielewski’s claims, some of which align with recent reporting, are the latest in a slew of inappropriate activity Pruitt has allegedly engaged in since being sworn in early last year.
Pruitt has reportedly spent an unprecedented amount of agency funds on his personal security, hiring a team of 20 security guards to provide round-the-clock protection, hired a consulting firm to monitor media coverage of the agency, regularly flies first-class because of unproven security threats, rented an apartment tied to a lobbyist with work before the EPA, and gave two EPA staffers significant raises.
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